Not Your Typical Gift Shop

Bill Cochran of Shop the World Gifts
Exquisite detailing is the hallmark of items inside Bill and Joan Cochran's cabin-like store in rural Southeast Tennessee.  Up-close, the handiwork is evident, and items are moderately priced.  These shop owners are in business to earn a living just like any other retailer.  But they describe their business as a ministry that fits with their world view.  Shop with them, and it might enlarge your view of the world.
When I visited Bill Cochran at his store in Englewood, I asked for his definition of fair trade and he responded with a detailed answer.  "It's a global ministry that fights world poverty and hunger.  The top three objectives of fair trade are, number one, the hands that make the products have to get paid first and fair.  Second there can be no forced or child labor involved.  Third, everything has to be done in an environmentally sustainable manner."

Most items in the Shop the World Gifts store are what Cochran describes as fair trade, from 15 different fair trade organizations.  The items represent about 40 different countries.  You can find sturdy home decor baskets, luxurious scarves, delicate jewelry, wall hangings, finger puppets and Christmas decorations. The store offers online shopping as well.  But due to the one-of-a-kind nature of many items, Cochran says you may want to call or email to check on availability. 
Soap Stone from Kenya

To explain the far-reaching effects of buying fair trade products, Cochran pointed out the soap stone figurines from Kenya.  He explained that in 2007 a cooperative that had been helping artisans sell their work used its profits to start an elementary school. "The co-ops are using their money to build hospitals and churches and schools and all kinds of things that we take for granted. "He said many of us forget how others in the world live, on about a dollar a day.  

When it comes to shopping, you won't find necessarily find the least expensive version of items here.  But compared to typical retail, Cochran says you'll get more for your money in quality and peace of mind.  "A lot of people are looking for ways to really make their dollars count, not just for themselves, but to count where they can feel good about what they're doing."

Cochran says most, but not all, fair trade organizations are faith-based.  "My wife and I are driven by the faith because Matthew 25 is our favorite scripture where Jesus says 'if you've done it to the least of these, so you've done unto me,' so that's our motive and our mission."  The Cochrans travel to churches and community events where they find markets for the goods and tell the reasons behind fair trade.

Shop the World Gifts

Tomorrow:  Up-close with one-of-a-kind nativity scenes, all made by hand around the globe...

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